Tuesday, April 28, 2015

5 ways to simplify your next kid party


This weekend my youngest son turned 3. I won't even get into how impossible that seems. But at his request, we threw a Minion birthday party. (The Minions are those little yellow guys from Despicable Me that are everywhere in stores right now, for those of you who aren't up on your non-English-speaking-banana-eating-fart-gun-shooting-weird-little-creature Kid Lore at the moment).

Warning: The Minion color palette could make your eyes bleed, so tread carefully if it's been a while since your last little kid birthday party.

I tried to keep this party really simple, but I also wanted to honor and celebrate our littlest guy. (You know how easy it would be to skip a big to-do for that poor third child...) I think I was really successful on both accounts, and my husband was even overheard saying, "This was the easiest party we've ever thrown." Trust me, that is music to my ears. (Let's just say that usually the 48 hours before and again after a party aren't always peaceful around here).

Now that it's all said and done, I am sharing the tips I employed to pull together a festive and fun birthday for our little guy, without making myself (or anyone else) insane.


1. Shop Online

Very shortly after my son declared his party theme was going to be Minions (and I cried inside a little), a company called Party Pail reached out and asked if they could send me some of their party supplies to try. I had never shopped online before for this type of stuff, but as soon as I hit the "solid colors" section of their website, I was like, um yes, yes you can.

I usually wait until the week before the party and grab armloads of random stuff at Wal-Mart or Party City. I can't stand errands, so I wait until the last minute on purpose to do this kind of drudgery. Plus, there's never a good time to get there. I either have to take my kids (which I have learned is not a good plan), or leave the house in the evenings (which is no fun for someone whose strict policy is not to move after 7 pm). And then because nothing at Wal-Mart or Party City ever quite fits the plan in my head, I stay up until all hours trying to tweak and DIY my way to party perfection.


After filling my cart at Party Pail, I quickly realized I've been depriving myself of a wonderful thing all these years: Pajama-Couch Shopping. No going out in the cold after dark, no chugging after heavy shopping carts in tundra-like parking lots, no trying to wait for a free evening, no trying to sneak party favors past the kids. It was glorious!

And they had really cute stuff at really good prices. I got paper napkins, placemats, utensils, cups, paper straws, baking cups (that were adorable - I filled them with bite sized watermelon for the kiddos), TONS of balloons, treat boxes, and paper fans. It was literally a party in a box. And once I got everything open, I went back and ordered more. Sure, you can't be quite as big a procrastinator if you're doing it online, but this was my most favorite party shopping ever.



(Quick tip on the balloons: I was going to buy a disposable helium tank to fill them from Party City. It was $40 and would fill 25 balloons. But then I noticed they rent tanks as well, which fill 55 balloons but still cost just $40. We ended up going with the rented version and it was slick as rain. You pay a refundable deposit and get it for 2 days. It was perfect- and definitely easier than ordering pre-filled and trying to fit that many balloons in your minivan too!) Also yes I have a minivan. Real designers have minivans. Bahaha.


2. Consolidate Decor


My friend Steph recently threw the. most. gorgeous. first birthday party for her youngest son. When I popped over to help her hang some garlands, she totally had an epiphany. She realized that by trying to decorate the entire house and yard, none of her "party zones" would ever make a very big impact. Even though she'd made a boatload of decorations, they didn't feel like a huge quantity because they were spread too thin.

After she said that, we decided to hang ALL of her cupcake garlands in the foyer. She had hit the nail on the head- when you group things that way, the impact is massive and you need less decorations.

I took that lesson to heart when I decorated for my party. Instead of spreading decorations throughout the house, I focused on decorating only our dining space. The mass of balloons wouldn't have been impactful at all if they'd migrated to other rooms, but by keeping them all in a tiny space together, it felt like a mountain of balloons!


The same was true for the photo backdrop. If you hang paper fans by one's and two's all around a house, it doesn't make a statement like one giant wall of them can.


3. Forgo the DIY's

Sometimes it's just not worth it to DIY. I am only a fan of DIY when it saves you HUGE money, and/or when the thing in your head isn't available or isn't available at a price you can afford.

Over the years, I've made more than my fair share of party decorations, including paper pinwheels. They're simple and inexpensive to make so I thought I was coming out ahead. (I've even blogged about how to do it). Then I saw that Party Pail sold them, and for only $2.49 each! Those things take at least 20 minutes a piece to make and cost $2 each in scrapbook paper. So, this was really a no-brainer.

I bought 12 and hung them up, all together, on one wall to make a photo backdrop. Even including many bouts of hysterical laughter catching up with my mom and aunt as I decorated, I did the whole wall in less than the time it takes to DIY one pinwheel. All it took was scotch tape and an occasional sanity-check with a level.




4. Give the Cook a Break

Ahem, the cook would be you. The older I get, the more I realize my passions do not lay in the kitchen. (And I'd like to pause here to say no judgement if you love to throw elaborate parties, enjoy DIY's tremendously, and get massive pleasure from preparing gourmet spreads- go for it! This post is about making yourself happy and not crazy. Do what makes you that).


Anyway, I do not like to cook at all. So coming up with a meal for a crowd is enough to send me into hysterics. Plus, there's so much mess in the kitchen to contend with as you're trying to get everything else ready. So my go-to food plan these days is letting Costco do the cooking. Here are my favorite things to grab for various parties:

- Brussels sprout/ kale shredded salad kit (located in the "cold room")

- Spinach salad/ poppyseed dressing box salad (in the pre-made food cooler toward the back by the deli. It has eggs and grape tomatoes and dried cranberries).

- Pre-made rotisserie chicken salad

- 12 pack of bakery croissants (I do not leave Costco without these. Ever.)

- Food court pizza. You can pre-order one for $10 from the food court. They are huge, delicious, floppy New York style pizzas that that are hot and ready at whatever time you specify. (Just remember the food court only takes cash).

- Baked Mac N' Cheese. This is back in the pre-made section as well. I crumble saltines and stir them with melted butter and sprinkle on top, because this dish isn't caloric enough on its own.

-Rotisserie chicken. A whole chicken for $5. You can't beat that.

- Fruit. Costco has great fruit for a crowd, and if you don't have time to cut watermelon, there are plenty of pre-cut fruit trays.

- Chips, dips, and snacks. Anything. Seriously, any of them.

- Acaia chocolate-covered blueberries. Oh sweet goodness.

(For the record, I don't get ALL of this for the same party, but wanted to share all of my favorite party fare in one place).

This is actually a super fun game I played with someone the other night. We tell each other all of our favorite stuff to buy at Costco. (End of game). Your turn- go!

5. Cheat on the Cake


I cheated on the cake soooo big time. My friend Steph not only knows how to hang a mean garland, but she is the most talented home baker I've ever met. Her cake creations are beyond stunning. So I asked her if she would make the cake for this party (and for the record, all parties I ever have from now on). So yes, this Minion is a cake. Can you even believe it?!




I know!! She's awesome. Obviously, that makes me a total cheater on this list of "ways to simplify" because I'm sure it took her more hours than I want to know about. And because not all of you have a Steph.

But I will tell you how I would cheat on a cake if I didn't have a Steph: Target.

Clearly you aren't going to get this kind of cake at Target. But I learned at my oldest son's 6th birthday party that kids don't care! That year, I ordered a sheet cake at Target for only about $15 and had them add some icing writing in our theme colors (that time it was Ninjago Legos, another lovely palette, ugh!) but told them to leave the top of the cake with a large blank area. Then I loaded it up with his Ninjago toys arranged in a battle scene. No cake has ever been oohed and ahhed over by a group of kids more than that one. It was crowded around, photographed, and fawned over. That's when I realized that kids don't necessarily need a gourmet cake. (Wha?!) Their needs list basically ends at toys and sugar when it comes to birthday parties.



Hopefully this list encourages you that you don't have to be a super mom or exhaust yourself staying up late to DIY in order to throw your kids a cute birthday party. I've done plenty of that, and I'm sure I will again (even as I write this I'm dreaming of curtaining off our entire family room so you can step through a wardrobe into a winter wonderland for the Narnia party my daughter wants this Fall...) but I'm just saying you can give yourself a break and not feel bad about it IF you want to!!

And Happy Happy Birthday to my joy-giving BABY boy...who I can't believe is so old!!!



{As mentioned above, I was gifted product by Party Pail for this occasion. All opinions are 100% my own, and I only recommend companies to you that I would share with my best friends at our weekly playdate.}

4 comments :

  1. This has always been a favorite place of mine and the bars around here defines what makes going there special. Will forever be a loyal customer to this best event planner nyc and her establishment.

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  2. All the party planning is wonderful dear and the cake is beyond amazing. I am seriously amazed how someone can be that talented. I am also doing corporate event planning and looking for someone like her for the cake.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Enjoyed every detail of this impressive blog. Specially how the writer has instilled life to it.guesthouse

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